The New Ways Of War

Early warfare, as best we can tell, was more like gang fights in the modern ghetto than the sort of stuff we associate with war in Antiquity. One settlement would round up some men, who would take on the men of the neighboring settlement. They went at one another in a melee, using axes, clubs and short swords, maybe, with the leaders right there in the middle of it, leading their war bands. A lot of it may have been ritualized, rather than actual combat, but that’s speculation. What’s clear is ti was small scale.

Prosperity changed that as better organization and better agriculture allowed for more men to be full time warriors. Greater prosperity also meant better weapons. Ranged weapons made the full speed charge, by men on foot, a losing proposition, unless you could put your men on horses or in chariots. Speed meant you could have formations and then flanking maneuvers, which required strategy and execution. Each innovation led to more innovations. The ways of war changed as military technology and tactics evolved.

Changes in military technology often have unforeseen consequences. The introduction of the machine gun in the Great War is the best example. Even with the new artillery, war was expected to be men advancing on one another over open fields. This was the way war was fought and the way the French were prepared to fight it. They even had their officers in colorful uniforms so they could be seen by their men. The machine gun made this style of war utter insanity, but no one thought about that until the bodies piled up.

The machine gun, along with fantastic improvements in artillery, resulted in trench warfare that was hopelessly expensive and bloody. That led to new tactics and new weapons. The tank, for example, was developed to counter the trenches and barbed wire. Eventually, planes became another answer to fixed defensive positions. All of these new weapons eventually led to new strategies.The Battle of Cambrai, in which the British used tanks, artillery, infantry and air power is one of the first examples of combined arms tactics.

The point to all of this is that war evolves and not always in ways that are predictable or even imaginable. Every new advance in weapons and tactics leads to responses and new weapons and tactics. The most recent example if the “little green men” that suddenly popped up in Crimea. Instead of an invading Russian army, a pro-Russian mercenary force appeared out of nowhere to lead a revolt against Ukrainian control of the region. It was, to a great degree, an example of Fourth Generation Warfare.

A question to ponder is what happens when energy weapons become a practical response to ballistic missiles and drones? The US military has been making steady progress developing mobile laser systems, able to knock out ballistic missiles. They are a decade away from anything usable, but it is not unrealistic to imagine a time in the near future when it is possible to knock out incoming missiles. This sort of technology has a funny way of advancing quickly after it gets deployed.

Of course, a weapon that can render another weapon obsolete is a very dangerous weapon. The reason ground-based, anti-missile systems are such a sensitive subject is because they throw off the balance of arms and require a response. A missile defense system in Europe, that could plausibly knock down Russian missiles, would require the Russians to make a lot more missiles, in addition to other plans to counter this new weapon. That’s a big unknown so everyone treads lightly.

Logically, the sudden advance in military technology 100 years ago, along with the lethality of the new technology, should have made war less likely. Cannonballs and bayonet charges are terrible things, but they pale in comparison to massed machine gun fire on advancing infantry. It would seem blazingly obvious that unless you have an answer for the machine gun, much less the new artillery, you don’t willingly go to war. That’s not what happened. Two great industrial wars latter and the West was just about dead.

That’s an important lesson to keep in mind while thinking about what’s happening with military technology, as well as military strategy. Laser weapons may be a ways off, but drone technology is here and changing how we fight wars. A sky full of flying death robots, capable of working in concert or independently, to bring death to an enemy is going to change how nations go to war. It means new weapons and new ways of fighting. Even the Arabs are adapting to drone warfare. Imagine what the Chinese are doing.

Of course, the new responses do not have to be strictly military. The Million Mohammedan March into Europe surely included jihadis willing to die for Allah. Maybe some of those jihadis were trained by Syria, at the behest of Russia. If you are Russia, you have to be looking at the truck attacks and thinking that could be an effective weapon. If you cannot win the technology fight, maybe the answer lies in some other area of the battlefield. New technology may result in a proliferation of asymmetric warfare waged by state actors.

It’s fun to speculate, but flying death robots alone change the way the world will be fighting wars in the future. Things like carriers can quickly become white elephants in a world where a swarm or drones can fall out of the sky or come up from the depths of the ocean. Everyone forgets about the coming proliferation of a independently controlled torpedoes that can literally roam the ocean looking for targets. The microprocessor goes from being a force multiplier to a force nullifier.

It would be nice if the proliferation of killing machines worked as a deterrent to war, but that is not the lesson of history. The one exception has been nuclear weapons, which probably kept the the Soviets from invading Europe and the US from systematically undermining the Russian government, as we see going on today. The new technology does not promise to destroy the world so it probably will not be much of a deterrent. If anything, as we have seen with the neocon warmongering, it will make everyone reckless.

76 thoughts on “The New Ways Of War

  1. My (unoriginal) observation on drones:
    1. Current technology requires a human pilot and a reliable secure link between the pilot and the drone.
    2. Future technology may allow drones to be pre-programmed by the human (pilot) before launch and not dependent upon a reliable secure link.

    Both 1 and 2 above require trained humans capable of carrying out their mission. Humans can render other humans incapable via inexpensive 5.56 ammo or other means.

  2. You guys should look at this slideshow “Dennis M. Bushnell, Future Strategic Issues/Future Warfare [Circa 2025] ” he goes over the trends of technology coming up and how they may play out. Bushnell being chief scientist at NASA Langley Research Center. His report is not some wild eyed fanaticism it’s based on reasonable trends. Link.

    Page 70 gives the computing power trend and around 2025 we get human level computation for $1000. 2025 is bad but notice it says,”…By 2030, PC has collective computing power of a town full of human

    Here’s another page that has a lot of stuff on military reform.

    The page seems to be down but google has a cache of the page.

  3. Same naval rifles on the Missouri could have much greater range and accuracy with todays technology; rocket assist and terminal phase guidance. While remaining a tough to kill launch platform.
    That said, one nuc-warhead on a torp or missile and (though not likely to sink her) can you say “degraded capabilities”.

    But if you really want to stop the Chinese building program, cancel China’s “Most Favored Nation” status, and line up tariffs at the docks.
    Tell me again, why are we buying anything from a country that builds missiles and ships that are only intended to fight the USA?
    I would buy nothing from China but in many, many areas there is no longer any other choice. As it is, I didn’t replace my deep-fat fryer, can opener, water cooler with ‘Made in China’ until I found something made elsewhere or in most cases, not at all.

    I likely lost my old house due to a defective design of a Chinese copy of a charcoal smoker, I’ve learned my lesson.

  4. A brief comment about battleships: despite their armor, they were vulnerable to air and submarine attacks. (Probably true for all surface ships.) They had powerful guns but their range was a bit more than twenty miles, not enough in modern naval warfare.

    What they really excelled at in the end was shore bombardment. That’s why Congress was concerned after the final retirement of the Iowa-class in the 1990s. I don’t think that has been fully resolved, but you probably don’t need a full battleship. The next generation of guided-missile cruisers could also have some guns bigger than five-inch caliber but smaller than sixteen-inch – whatever is best for shore targets.

    During the Vietnam War the Navy used eight-inch guns (USS Newport News) and six-inch guns (USS Oklahoma City) in triple-gun turrets for this purpose.

  5. A sky full of flying death robots, capable of working in concert or independently, to bring death to an enemy is going to change how nations go to war.

    I’ve been warning about this for over a decade. Skynet is coming.

    • They have to be made jam-resistant and EMP-proof first. Anything with an antenna is vulnerable.

  6. If the USG fights a war with a country that can actually fight back, then it has about 6 months before a draft would be needed and some kind of rationing and major tax raises. Only problem is, americans won’t stand for that, so USG goes home with its tail between its legs and the petrodollar loses its power. That means the consumerism that unites all these people temporarily also goes and eventually the country falls to be replaced by multiple other countries.

    Or, USG goes full retard and becomes a police state to mobilize for the war effort. But that’s no way to run a big, diverse country. They tried it in the USSR too and we see how that worked out for them.

  7. Pingback: Cannonballs and bayonet charges are terrible things | IowaDawg: Posting Only What I Like

  8. Z, your post illustrates my concern with how the Pentagon is going about things. In WWII, we produced all sorts of arms, tanks, ships and planes. Battleships were supposed to win the war, but it turned out to be carriers. U.S. tanks were poorly armored, but sheer numbers turned the tide. These days, it seems the U.S. military is all about big, expensive projects. F22, F35, carrier battle groups. I am guessing that some sort of low profile, less expensive technology is going to turn the tide in the future. If nothing else, a wide variety of deployed equipment gives the enemy less of a focus on how to defend against us or how to attack us. Singular, massive projects mean that only one deficiency needs to be exploited by the enemy to bring us down. Think “Death Star” from Star Wars.

    • Sometimes, the best thing to do is simply give the troops a new toy to experiment with. “We know you developed this to do X, but we found out it’s really good for doing Y.”

      Sometimes, the best reason to buy something extraordinarily high-tech, like the F-22 and F-35, is to raise the bar so high that very few will attempt a similar investment. That takes some opponents’ options off the table. Also, our high-tech stuff won’t operate in isolation; it will frequently work in concert with lower-tech (the “high/low mix”). For example, many scenarios call for the F-22, F-35, and B-2 to function as a “kick in the door” force for more conventional capabilities.

      Just because in one scenario a first-world competitor can defeat one of our high-end systems (as in the cited example of drones swarming a carrier) doesn’t mean that the system is totally obsolete. A carrier will still be useful in many other scenarios. Don’t throw anything away — it might still have a use.

  9. Curious: I’ve really enjoyed your “Essential Knowledge” series on Western Civilization, and have used it as a reference in building my own personal “must-read” list. I’m wondering if you’ve got a similar list of books you’ve used for understanding the basics, and the evolution, of military technology and strategy?

    • That is a good idea. I’ve had a passing interest in military tactics since I was a kid. I have a bunch of books lying around. I should probably do a post on it.

      Thanks for the idea.

  10. Weapon technology has always changed. But what’s very different today is why we fight wars. Wars of antiquity, and up to the early part of the industrial revolution, were about land. Agrarian societies depended upon it, so if your neighbor’s land was greener, you went to war to get it. Sure, religion was mixed in, but it was still about more land and more gold. Even the church knew that.

    Then the Industrial Revolution came around and the Brits quickly figured out you didn’t need massive armies to conquer people, just a massive Navy to protect trade in their colonies. They also figured out that a few bureaucrats could easily influence a society so long as they educated a few of the locals and employed them to do the administrative work. Throw in some railroads to move things around, schools, hospitals and the English language, and the sun never set upon their Empire. At least up until the point the locals figured out they didn’t need permission from the Queen to rule themselves.

    WWI was really more of the same Continental European stupidity about fighting wars as they always had but on industrialized scale. Thank God that finally came to and end when American conquered and occupied Germany. After that, there was a US attitude they could throw their “freedom and democracy” anywhere they wanted. But Korea, Viet-Nam and 20-years of non-stop Middle-East engagements have proven that not to be the case. If Afghanistan is nothing, it’s at least a 5,000-year old reminder that even the most advanced army can be minimalized by inbreeding-idiots willing to throw enough stones.

    Communism took hold only where the US wasn’t interested because it wasn’t economically viable and despite the old domino theory in south east Asia. China quickly proved that you can have both a massive economy and Communism. Since Russia doesn’t have any viable economic value, they can remain the world’s nuclear armed boogie man and a great incentive for the military industrial complexes of the US and Europe.

    Now comes the oldest threat in 1500-years. Islam. Technologically backwards, mostly illiterate and generally primitive. Even their own Imams have admitted they’re not even capable of producing a car, let alone serious technology which they have to buy from the West. But they never gave up on world domination. Even without blowing up a shopping mall or running over pedestrians, they will probably succeed without much more effort than a good push.

    When I say good push, what I mean is if a Muslim woman pushes out 5 babies to every one German, French, Italian, Spanish, Brit or American, the numbers speak for themselves. And these are citizens I’m talking about, not refugees and immigrants you might be able to legally deport.

    The war they are fighting is not about tangible things like land or gold, but about life under the rule of Islam and the worship of Allah. And while they may not have the collective intelligence to run global corporation, at the rate they’re going, in 100-years they’ll be the only market in town. One global souq!

    • At it’s root, Islam’s advantage is not it’s birthrate, but the efficiency and effectiveness of it’s method of memetically reprogramming it’s youth. The ritual, vocalization, and high repetition rate of it’s messaging, combined with strict social proscription against any deviations, has produced endless generations of “true believers” that operate primarily out of habit rather than reasoning. Once this indoctrination has been implemented prior adolescence, they are on autopilot until death.

      • The danger to us all is that Islam removes the individual’s agency, that is, the capacity to exercise independent choice. In western religions, God asks things of you. In Islam, God tells you what to do, as interpreted by a group of middle aged men. The western notion of religion being a conscious set of choices ignores the Muslim’s relationship to his God.

    • Our super-elite is reproducing at or above replacement-rate: Gates 3 children, Buffett 3 children, Zuckerberg soon to be 2, Musk 6, Bezos 4. (Just googled this info.) This suggests that Muslims will not take over due to demographic replacement — rather, they’ll be a permanent underclass ruled by Western Lords.

      • @ Garr – If the top 1% or even 5% are the only group exceeding the standard replacement rate, the 99-95% that are generally below that rate will fail the rest of us. There is sufficient evidence across Europe and much of the US to indicate westerners are not replacing ourselves at a sufficient pace. I guess we will find out in 20-30 years.

        • Yeah, losers like me are going extinct, that’s for sure. I was thinking that the super-elite will use elite warriors in Mech Suits to protect them from the horrible masses that they exploit — kind of like in that movie Elysium. Doug, above, persuasively argues that elite warriors in Mech Suits wouldn’t be all that effective against West Virginians, but maybe they’d be pretty effective against Muslims. It’s kind of consoling to think that at least there will be a West-European Lord-caste deploying Mech-Suited men-at-arms, isn’t it? Well, maybe not.

    • I see the cliche that Russia is economically null. Wrong. It’s probably about the size of South Korea’s, not Spain’s, once adjusted for purchasing power parity. Of course there are nearly twice as many Russians as Koreans (North and South) so the comparison isn’t entirely flattering given the difference in landmass and natural resources. But Bloomberg admitted Russia did quietly surpass the U.S. in grain exports in the last two years.

  11. So the Reader’s Digest version of this would be: “if violence never settled anything, weapons technology wouldn’t have advanced much beyond stone knives and heavy clubs.”

    • Once of these days an exploding muhommed will get his hands on a nuke. Then things will get exciting.

      • Sooner than many think. Keep in mind that both Britain and France are nuke powers now in the throes of a cultural shift. I could see a time when a British Muslim ascends to defense minister and hatches a plot to use a commercial jet to carry a nuke and blow up DC.

  12. The problem with waging war today is fourfold: One, conventional war between most modern nations is mutual suicide.The advent of nukes and bio-weapons that could tempt the losing side when it has nothing left to lose.

    Two, even if you beat a nation’s army, then you have to deal with an insurgency that erodes your side’s morale and ruins their economy. Rare is the occupying army (Post WW2 Japan) ever succeeds long term pacifying the conquered country. Even then, now you have to protect them from their enemies, since you demobbed their armed forces.

    Three, despite so-called surgical strikes, collateral damage and destruction of civilian infrastructure is going to happen, and insure life-long resentment to the very people you wanted to liberate. Sooner or later, like the Vietnamese and Chechens, they will want you to leave.

    Fourth, too much reliance on “Wonder Weapons” leads to dangerous confidence that can lead to unnecessary conflict in the mistaken assumption the war will be short and fast, and all the troops home by Christmas.

  13. These are things that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about because I have no effect on them. It is nice to read people who do so one can prepare a bit.
    My focus is on family survival, both within and without the current civilization.
    Family network, outside contacts, bug in/bug out. The big worry is the need to get to the bug out after surviving an initial shock.

    • @ Teapartydoc – With regards to “bugging out” as you call it, do you have a large farm and know how to run one? Because after you bug out, you better have a place to grow your own food, raise animals and provide for yourself for the long term. This idea of “bugging out” with a knife and back pack full of granola bars makes no sense to me. For the short term, yes, I understand you want to get away from an earth quake or flood and keep your family safe. But I haven’t read anything about ‘preppers considering life 5, 10 or 20 years after this event they bugged out from. What’s the long term goal??

      I’m not mocking the idea, I’m just trying to understand how ‘preppers think they will last very long when all of civilization collapses. This all seems to come from people who are mostly “city folk” and have not spent any serious time raising their own food or live stock let alone provide their family with enough calories for day-to-day life and just surviving. Please explain how this is supposed to work.

      • have enough food, water, and *distance* to outwait the dindu’s (who presumably will starve and murder each other into oblivion in a relatively short time).

      • Have a farm. Raised on one. Hunt. Fish. Know how to raise just about every kind of animal. Can plow and cultivate with horses. Built barn with my dad and one other man with timber cut off our own property and snaked out of woods with horses. Only used local sawmill to rough cut timber.
        Property has it’s own water supply, and is too remote for city boys to bother getting there, and would probably regret it if they did.
        Dad was a survivalist. Once when plowing my brother asked him why they couldn’t use the tractor Instead of the horses. Dad said one of these days the Russians would bomb us back into the stone age. My brother asked if they couldn’t use the tractor until we got bombed.
        I’m not as crazy about prepping as my Dad was. My idea is to make it fun for the family. Instead of planting survival plots we plant food plots for deer that we can use if we have to, and raise apples and berries. Put down turnips for winter forage for deer. Can survive on these if needed.

        • @ Teapartydoc – Sounds very nice. I hope that day never comes for you or your family. I suspect you are probably one of the few who are fortunate enough to have such a place. I’ve read so many articles about city people’s ideas of surviving in the woods and doubt they really understand what it means when civilization collapses. My grand parents lived through 4-years of a collapsing society. It wasn’t as much fun as these YouTube ‘preppers think it will be.

          • The way I look at it you really only need to be able to survive one winter, and be able to prepare for the next if some kind of society hasn’t reestablished itself. Every month the competition thins out.

          • Karl, you raise some valid points. I have been putting together, slowly, bit by bit, a Bug Out Bag, and other gear for staying in place should the SHTF. No farm here. Just the big city. No illusions either. Just a realistic, although untested sense of reality, of what will be coming down the pike when it is every man for himself.

            A movie about post apocalyptic life that comes to mind right now is “The Book of Eli.” This movie combines a lot of elements of how it will be. Kill or be killed. Strong men trying to control resources such as water. Survival at it’s most basic and an hourly, minute-by-minute proposition. The old and infirm, like me, probably don’t stand much of a chance for very long. The best we can do is to try to take care of the one’s we love and prepare them as best we can.

            Even in a natural disaster, and one of a large scale, the challenge will be insurmountable for far too many. Who’s going to save us? Not the government. Not our neighbor. We only have ourselves, our self reliance, and our preparations to keep us going. Very very few of us have experienced even remotely what your grandparents when through. Those with war time deprivations or of the Great Depression are no longer with us. It will be unreal and many will die just from the shock of it all.

        • Your dad sounds a lot smarter than the Social Justice Cold Warriors screaming until this recent Tomahawk strike about ‘Trump-RUSSIANS’ or like Louise Mensch, calling for a war on the Russians as if they don’t have nukes newer and missiles better than our own.

  14. Think outside the box a little more. It’s not just science fiction anymore.

    We are on the cusp of using DNA manipulation to bio-engineer super soldiers or perhaps create a new predator life-form that would reshape the battlefield.

    Mass communication media is at an epidemic level of saturation and can now be employed to reprogram mental habits subconsciously. Instead of killing the enemy, program them to surrender.

    Lasers and drones are incremental steps in existing technological progress. It’s what you don’t see coming that’s the real game-changer.

    • Nahhh. No super soldiers or predators. Probably just some love-child of the common cold and ebola that only infects people with certain genes.

    • I try to avoid predictions about things. Warfare for one. Remember how we were supposed to have colonies in our Solar System or faster than light travel by now? This is what science fiction predicted. All predictions of what will happen in the future are based on past models. For instance, the Maginot Line was supposed to stop any German advance. And it would have if the Germans had attacked directly instead of going around it.

      I could predict that mankind will use drone technology as soldiers. In a manner similar to modern video games, cyborgs will be controlled by humans, or even computers. As soon as I say that, I realize that not enough humans would be killed as would be necessary for remolding society in whatever direction our masters want. Cynical? Sure, but war has always been about borrowing money into existence. Building weapons and then destroying them, property, and human beings is always a good waste of money. So, more money will need to be borrowed into existence. Rinse and repeat.

  15. “I don’t know what weapons will be used in WWIII, I only know WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones.” A Einstein

  16. In land warfare small unit infantry tactics will never be obsolete, if anything, the more technology applied in war the more valuable SUT is. The basic principles of small unit combat are the basis of almost all combat. Funny how it is called 4th generation war as it is actually the first style of war going back to the beginning of recorded time.
    Even Colonel Boydd in his OODA Loop doctrine of Air warfare applied it not only to air combat, but to all forms of fighting.
    Most probably nothing will replace the man and his rifle, to defend territory or to take it.
    The rifle isn’t called the queen of battle for nothing. There is nothing more difficult to defeat than the effective 4th gen/insurgent/guerrilla warrior fighting in mountainous terrain. Combined arms used to defeat the “G” and in counter insurgency, are very effective if properly understood and implemented, regardless you still need boots on the ground who are also effective small unit infantry combat solders and leadership that makes it work, both a rarity and always in short supply. For large nation state armies it is a very perishable skill, easily list, difficult to re-aquire.
    For the Guerrilla/insurgent/partisan, it is the only viable form of combat.
    If for instance lets say our government for whatever reasons came to blows with the American people, and people fought back, all it’s tanks and aircraft, it wizardry of technology, would not be enough to defeat such an insurgency, it could “own” and control certain territory, but to subdue this entire country where the dirt people are up in arms and fighting 4th gen war, ain’t going to happen. All the fancy technology and physical might this government has would fail, and they would be forced to wage 4th gen counter warfare themselves. A tough ticket to punch even with fully committed troops. Because the guerrilla fighter is usually somebody who is not afraid to die fighting for what they believe in. Technology can never defeat that.
    Who is going to be the most effective in mind and spirit? A man fighting for his kith and kin, his piece of land and home, or the solder who is an instrument of tyranny of the state?
    Me, I live in mountains in WV, and most of WV is probably some of the finest Guerrilla terrain in North America, and with the small manufacturing capabilities of mom & pop American shops and factories, the fragility of infrastructure and rot the almost universal corruption of government officials on every level, a government that would cause such as 4th Gen war to be waged on American soil, would be akin to sticking it’s dick in a meat grinder.

    “You can’t “shock and awe” someone who is not afraid to die, but on the contrary desires to do so on the battlefield.
    Unconventional wars are often won by tactics rather than strategy. The insurgent’s only strategy is to win the war. In order to successfully combat guerrillas, a military force has to have very capable and flexible infantry squad and platoon commanders. This is the infantry’s war, not that of the generals.
    Waging an unconventional war requires a different type of intelligence from the one when fighting against a conventional enemy. Guerrilla operations and movements cannot be easily spotted. Often the insurgents are well camouflaged or operate in disguise. Therefore human intelligence is an absolute necessity. It won’t be enough to just listen to the enemy’s radio communication or rely on aerial or satellite images in order to learn their intentions.”

    Excerpt: “The Deplorables have already considered what is coming. They are as prepared as they can be. Years of decline have enabled many to build their survival skills, to make due with less, to build real communities where one man can trust another, to discover what is truly important and what can and should be salvaged from this society. Outside of that demographic, however, people are stark naked. They are vulnerable in ways they simply cannot imagine. They are unprepared and unskilled for what will matter most.”

      • What man makey man breaky.
        Besides, they have to get out of them sometime. That technology looks pretty nifty in the R&D lab, but they are power hogs of the first level. Until someone comes up with small fusion power units, there isn’t a battery technology small and light enough to run the digital controls and hydraulics without creating a fork truck on two legs.
        Regardless, you just go where they get out of them.
        Thats the thing with drones. Nobody has actually fought back against them, yet. And there are numerous ways to defeat them. They are weather limited, work great in the sandbox, but trie running them 24/7-365 like in a mountainous area, goo luck. And you still have to set up defensive measures from their bases, plus protect all the people, support and administration that goes with drones. And a few drones does not make an effective counterinsurgency technology. You need hundreds if not more, none stop in a given geographic area. If it is mountainous terrain, a whole other thing from the flat terrain of the mid east, you have the added complexity of another axis of observation requirements, along with concealment under tree and vegetation.
        And still, nobody is “shooting back” yet at remotely piloted arial or ground vehicles.
        There are very sound principles of electromagnetic countermeasures which can be home built out of commonly obtained materials. The Arabs are already doing it.
        But all that technology mean’s nothing if you can’t take and then hold territory physically, on the ground, and keep it.
        A nation the size of the US, there simply is not enough personal, never mind equipment and administration, to hold every square mile. And that is supposing nobody in the military goes AWOL or defects, and then there is the question of American solders waging combat on American civilians nobody has tested since 1860.

        Lot of people are unrealistically fearful of the might and technological advantages the .mil is portrayed as having.
        “Oh the government has tanks, and bombers, nukes even! Nobody can beat them.”

        Not for nothing, the last dozen or so “actions” the US military has committed itself to, haven’t been resounding successes to put it politely when waging war against an insurgency. And that is against indigenous people in 3rd world shitholes.

        You want to talk about Mech Suits against an insurgency in the US?
        Take the population of what, 340 million Americans, lets be conservative, 1% of the population chooses to fight back using small infantry/Guerrilla warfare, that is 3,400,000 people who are fighting basic small unit infantry combat using rifles and whatever munitions and destructive devices it can acquire and or make. A three million man army. Who has 3 million men under arms? Never mind 3 million people who are genuinely pissed off with a bone in their teeth fighting for their very homes and family.

        You have to account for how people think, why they fight, what is their motivation? Are they legitimate in their cause, do they hold the moral high ground? Are they fighting a corrupt government?
        And then there is the so called “Auxillery” in 4th gen war, the people who are not active in combat, but wage a war of supply and support for the insurgency. Then you take a country like America, and all the productive and inventive resources, the mom and pop machine shops, one man garage industry, the unequaled resources and technology at hand that can be used in the fight.
        And we haven’t touched the subject of infrastructure and supply we all enjoy today, and how easy it would be to disrupt or shut off the water, electricity, energy supply, food and medicine. Just drop the bridges across the Mississippi River, take out the main trunk lines of natural gas and oil, and this nation would come to a screeching halt.
        No technology invented can stop all that. It takes people, men with boots on the ground and a rifle in their hands, fighting in the mud, cold wet, hungry and scared, on both sides. Advanced complicated technological war wonders is for “solders” and politicians to justify the expense, to feel good about their existence. Ti use as a way to gain strategic advantage without actually using those technologies.
        Combat in the real world is the great equalizer, the acid test, and no technology survives unscathed by reality of war, no matter how wonderful or scary it looks. There is always a counter measure to be found and used.

        The sonofabitches running things are not that stupid. They need us more than we need them. The ruse and illusion of power over the dirt people is loosing it’s appearance of legitimacy.
        They may not be stupid, but are they psychopaths enough to try it?

        When I look at all that, I think the oligarchy, deep state, ruling elites, or whatever you call it, them, doesn’t know how lucky they are, open source war waged by American’s is not being waged on their fool ass’s.
        They wouldn’t last a month if the dirt people started to violently fight them back. They are messing with something that once unleashed is unstoppable, it will exact a revenge so total, so merciless, there is no precedence.

          • Salient indeed. Drone tech advances like AI inclusion will make gorilla fights, even in mountainous terrains a hard proposition. Intel drives the battle space. Good analysis Doug.

        • Which is why ACW 2.0 Electric Bugaloo hasn’t started .

          OTOH bringing in enough foreigners to soak deplorable bullets or to create chaos for the elite to escape isn’t a bad strategy

          Also not having commonalities makes control much easier , 50 languages and no common tongue is very good signal jamming.

          As for the farther future, so much infrastructure is falling apart its liable to come down to rifles.

          If it doesn’t autonomous drones with gas and germ weapons will break any insurgency if you have control of them. Killing enough people is one of the few ways an insurgency can be broken.

          The Hunger Games scenario

          Its too costly and difficult at this time though and the people who do control the drones aren’t willing to use these weapons and are willing to punish anyone who does.

    • 1) The only weapon system capable of taking and holding territory is a man with a rifle.
      2) A peasant farmer with a rifle is a soldier/guerrilla.
      3) The main difference between a sniper rifle and a scoped center fire hunting rifle is the target.
      4) Methinks the SJW cretins are in for an ugly surprise when the gloves come off and the inchoate rage of the We the Peons bursts forth in true living color.
      5) The Revolution WILL be televised.

    • Drone technology will I suspect eliminate maneuver. If a nation can develop the kit and preposition it long in advance of a line of march the aggressor is done for. The deadliest zone in WWI was that approximate 100yd strip of no mans land. Now imagine that kill zone 10-50 klicks deep, fully automated and denies access to anything, friend or foe.

      In that kind of environment speed just means you die quicker. Dispersal just means you die alone. Retreat may not even be possible as the swarm tech envelopes the aggressor.

  17. It’s interesting to note how late on that shift came between armies fighting like gangs and the full-on battles that came later: it was probably during the American Civil War, certainly not much before. That’s why WWI took everyone so much by surprise, the wholesale slaughter on that scale had never been seen before as it was pretty much impossible to carry out.

    • Hoplite shield-wall was a huge advance past gang-fights — and those guys weren’t full-timers, either.

      • Hoplite warfare was sort of a ritualized contest. Kind of like a rugby game with some deaths. They met at an agreed upon place fought their battle, collected their dead and wounded, and the winner literally got a trophy.

        As soon as a real war – the Peloponnese War – started, light units, cavalry, and ships became at least as important.

        • It felt real to the Persians at Marathon and Plataea, though. And Xenophon’s men were unstoppable. So maybe ritualized in intra-Greek conflict, but a killing-machine against barbarians. Also, didn’t Epaminondas’s guys kill a very large number of Spartans? That was after the Pel War … maybe attitudes had changed. (I don’t know … too lazy to google).

          • But the lack of cavalry made the Athenian hoplites useless in Sicily. Alexander used the phalanx and cavalry together to break the Persians in battles like Gaugamela.

          • Cavalry was used in very technically focused ways, wasn’t it? The Romans figured out to beat pike-formations … so the hoplite to pike-phalanx to checkerboard javelin+shortsword Roman formation sequence is really a perfect example of the evolution of military technology. (It seems to me that hoplite-tactics would be useful in urban street-combat, using iron rods instead of spears and plywood for shields.)

      • Garr, indeed they were a step up from gang / tribe fights, but not by much. Frankly I’d take a small band of full time / professionals over a part-time militia/army regardless of the opposition numbers anytime. To quote a friend, “quite a large number of landowning Britannic Celts under Boudicca got stomped like narcs at a biker rally by 10 to 12 thousand landless Roman professionals. Gaul was also conquered, and land holding Gauls who outnumbered the invading professionals were butchered, routinely, by landless Roman professionals”. I always liked my friend’s example. 🙂

    • Speaking of the American Civil War, there were plenty of hints about future warfare that European observers could have picked up on, but seemingly did not. The Gatling Gun’s deployment by the Union ought to have tipped off military thinkers to the trend to deadlier armaments. And the trench warfare stagnation in the Petersburg campaign predicted pretty well how trenches in WWI worked out.

      • Even the closing battles of the Napoleonic Wars were bloodbaths due to that deadly combination of new weapons and obsolete tactics.

  18. Aircraft carrier groups are more obsolete than the Maginot line, but if anyone has told the US Navy they are not listening any better than when it was demonstrated ninety years ago that the battleship was made obsolete by carriers. If I were Machiavelli I would bait my enemies into building carriers. Go small whenever possible, go micro whenever possible, get into space and stay in space.

    • Interesting that the obsolescence of battleships was partly decided by the speed of carriers: the Royal Navy abandoned the idea of battleships (having come up with the Dreadnought some forty years earlier) because they were slow and there was more need for ships that could keep pace with ships that carried planes.

      I would say then that speed is the essence of warfare, perhaps for many centuries past but more so in the future. Get there fastest with the most counts for a lot.

      • I think a modernized Iowa-class battleship actually isn’t obsolete. In the 80’s, the Chinese are Russians hated those things because they were virtually invulnerable to modern anti-ship weapons. Their armor threw off all the assumptions and battle planning.

        Their ship-to-ship firepower made them the hammer-of-god out to several hundred miles. And, they were designed as fast-battleships (up to 35 knots).

        The Iowas were retired because of their cost to operate and the Admirals’ desire for new high-tech ships – not because they were obsolete.

        • What will sink a ship like the Cole would barely scorch the paint on the Mighty Mo’. My grandad retired from the Bremerton shipyard whenever we could we’d tour the Missouri. I’d see the thing from shore at least once a week and I was always surprised again by the size of the guns when I got up close.

    • China just put a new carrier into operation so they’re even more behind the curve than we are.

      • I read something about that a while back. The design of the thing is for operations in the South China Sea, not for projecting power globally. It uses a conventional power plant and lacks the capacity to launch large surveillance aircraft. It means it has to rely on land based aircraft for reconnaissance. But, it suggests the Chinese are thinking locally, not globally.

        • I’m only armchair-educated in all things military, but there are two compelling arguments about China’s naval ambitions that I can’t square:

          (1) China knows it can’t challenge America with a blue-water navy, and isn’t interested in trying. But they do want America to stop having a say in their affairs, so they’re going to build an area denial force to control Southeast Asian waters.

          (2) China is increasingly dependent on foreign supply lines from places like East Africa and the Middle East, and needs to build a navy to guarantee their access to these resources.

          Not to mention (3): there’s a good chance that China isn’t nearly as financially or politically sound as the West thinks it is, and at the first hint of trouble, they won’t give a tinker’s damn about their Navy – and will pour all of their resources into using the Army for domestic control.

          • It is a strange contradiction. My hunch is that we’re seeing a natural tension between modern necessity and cultural instinct. China has never been a naval power. Zheng He was the only naval adventurer of any note. That was 600 years ago. The Chinese have always been much more concerned with threats from their inland neighbors so they never developed a naval tradition. That and the natural isolationism of China. When you see the outside world as full of barbarians, you’re not anxious to visit it.

  19. The problem with current drone tech is that they almost always expose themselves to radio access. There is a reason ICBMs cannot have their targets changed post-launch: it’s stunningly trivial to screw with hardware which interacts with the outside world via omnidirectional radio waves. Drones are already rendered completely impotent by simple jamming, but modern countries like russia are able to take control of things midflight; these are systems that are supposed to immediately fly back to base in the event of control loss. The Russians seem to think that burst laser communication solves this problem, but I wonder how precise the beam has to be to allow the drone to still be useful; the more lenient it is, the easier it would be for operators in forward positions to intercept the signal or make their own.

    Until we get fully autonomous drones that only interface with the outside world while physically plugged into the maintenance shed, this is going to continue to be a tool for pacifying tribals outside of the borders of civilization. Even then, you can fuck with these things purely by flashing an image in front of the camera-I’m not sure that drone tech is a step forward in miltary tech like the other advances you cited.

    • My hunch is the real killer drone will be the seaborne variety. Imagine a few thousand dormant torpedoes that just sit on the ocean floor. Once activated, they hunt for shipping based on certain characteristics. If you are a sea power, this is not useful technology. If you are trying to neutralize sea power, this is a very useful technology.

      The other aspect to consider is something that happened with naval power in the Great War. Everyone had big new expensive iron ships. The Admirals were afraid to deploy them fearful that a loss would scuttle the whole navy. At some point, one of our big expensive ships goes under. The USS Cole comes to mind. There are planners in the Pentagon and outside the Pentagon warning that the carrier group is vulnerable to a variety of low-tech attacks.

      • Sea mines already do this. If you want to blockade a naval chokepoint, you can put a variety of sophisticated sea mines on the bottom for about $10k a piece.

        I’m with Alexandros on drones. They are controlled by an extremely-vulnerable microwave link. They’re useful for some reconaissance and dropping bombs on goatherders. Warfare seems to be shifting more towards urban terrain where firepower is more of a liability than an asset. The army’s latest tech is a Karl Gustav recoilless rifle which was designed in the late 1940s. It is great for reducing urban hardpoints and blowing through walls.

        All of this other buck rogers equipment will likely break, not work, or be useful in fighting only other nation-states in an era when nation-states are on their way out.

        • The debate over drones follows the same contours as the debate over the tank a century ago. Heck, there were generals who thought the machine gun was a useless novelty. That’s not to say drones will be the game changer many assume, I’m just saying it is wise to open to the possibility. The first tanks were ridiculously stupid tools of war, but then clever people figured out how to address the flaws.

          The flaw in the drone is it is still controlled by humans. Once it can be programmed to operate on its own, the radio signal problem goes away. Someone will unriddle that eventually.

        • The kind of work a drone does is basically pretty simple and it will be not vastly more difficult to have autonomous drones than autonomous trucks which exist in prototype now

          Of course the same forces than allow autonomous trucks are also inadvertently creating an enormous welfare state as so many jobs in retail and transportation are liable to vanish . No jobs no tax revenue and no functional military either

          The US is starting to see this erosion in its readiness now and its only going to get worse . We can make up for it with cheap drones but dropping missiles into airfields has its limits

          In time we may find that the best equipment is simply out of reach

          Another problem, genetic engineering is now cheap enough for small groups or individuals to do and bio-terror could become a very common problem. We’ve been lucky so far but you can’t count on luck

          Brazil suffered from an incident of an introduced fungus that almost took out the entire chocolate industry there, California had its eucalyptus trees destroyed by bio-terror and there was an attack, still uncaught and unpunished at a Chipotle grill a few years ago.

          With only a dozen crops responsible for most of the worlds food, that a very bad situation waiting to happen and you can’t deter small groups of fanatics.

          And there is of course hacking (remember the OPM dump) and more.

          The allocation of power is shifting to a post Westphalian model and this bodes ill for everybody

        • According to Defense One’s Ukrainian sources, the Russians have assisted the breakaway Lugansk/Donetsk People’s republics with drone jamming tech that has turned the American supplied Ravens of the Ukrainian armed forces into useless junk on the ground. The Ukrainians had to stop using their U.S. supplied encrypted radios because the GRU ELINT guys aiding the LDNR were triangulating the location of the American radios and firing arty/GRADs at them for effect (quite possibly assuming that if U.S. encrypted comms were present then so were the American advisers NATO insist are not and never have been on the front lines in Donbass, despite the U.S. Army coyly admitting to having observers but not combatants there).

          Whether or not the Russians jammed some of the Tomahawks targeting the Al Shayrat air field will be proven in the coming days if the Russians/Syrian fish more of the cruise missiles out of the Med near the port of Tartus. Even if you don’t believe the USS Donald Cook incident happened in April 2014 or think it was just Russian propaganda, reading between the lines of the stories and discussions among active duty officers like Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges and retired Gen. Robert H. ‘kill Russians’ (he said that on Fox News) Scales and you realize the US Army realized it lost a lot of its great power land war edge in terms of long range arty and electronic warfare while bogged down in the sandbox.

          Not that I am expecting a direct U.S.-Russian clash in either Syria or Eastern Europe. Ironically, from the Russians POV what they’re doing in Syria is forward deterrence against American aggression, exactly what H.R. McMaster says the U.S. is doing putting troops in the Baltics it knows full well could be overrun and encircled within 48 hours if the Russians wanted to…in the same way, the U.S. has the power to destroy the Kheimmim air base and overwhelm Russian air defenses in Syria but chooses not to do so because the costs incurred elsewhere where Russia has escalation dominance i.e. Ukraine and/or the Baltics would be too high. So yes we could launch enough Tomahawks or stand off attack missiles at Kheimmim to overwhelm the vaunted S400s and Pantsirs defending it — but then there’d be nothing to prevent the Russians from incinerating the Yavoriv facility in far western Ukraine along with scores of NATO personnel there in retaliation, assuming they don’t destroy Incirlik Air Base on Turkish soil too.

          • I am still having trouble figuring out if Z Man really thinks the Russians are behind the immivasion into Europe from the greater Mideast as former NATO Gen. Phil Breedlove parroting his Atlantic Council talking points said to Congress. If they are, you’ve got to admit that’s a hell of a reflexive control over Angela Merkel (aka former Stasi agent ‘Erika’ when Putin was working just a few miles away from her in late 1980s Dresden) or Swedish cultural Marxist politicians who compulsively need more die-versity. I think what Breedlove was trying to say is that Russia deliberately bombs Sunni Syrians in rebel (aka in many places Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda lite) areas of the country to drive the civilians to Turkey and thence Europe, but he leaves the Turkish blackmailing of the EU and immivasion aggression against old enemy/neighbor Orthodox Christian Greece out of the equation. As well as any agency of the refugees themselves (the European alt-right especially Le Pen is also said to be Putin’s plaything, though the anti-EU Poles who think the Russians killed their president by bringing down his plane at Smolensk in 2010 can hardly be matched to this Narrative).

            Again, when did Putin put a gun to Merkel’s head is where the NATO/EU(SSR) #BlameRussia Narrative breaks down. The other point is why U.S. Gulf Cooperation Council Sunni supremacist if not Wahhabist allies like Saudi Arabia get a pass for spending tens of billions on regime change in Syria via thousands of foreign fighters and TOW missiles among other arms. NATO calls arming a local force sometimes mixed with foreign fighters aggression in Ukraine when Russia supports the LDNR but not in Syria when U.S. allies do it.

            Perhaps ZMan just was using truck jihad as an example of 4th Generation Warfare, which is itself a highly disputed concept.

      • Couple drone tech with supercavitation and you have a torpedo that wakes up and takes off @ 200-250 kt.

        • The Russians have been developing those since the 1980s. It was an explosion of a rocket propelled torpedo that was being tested for export to the Chinese that tragically sank the Kursk in 2000 (though many Russians still suspect CIA sabotage).

    • Drones, even our most cutting edge ones remain vulnerable when used against more advanced countries.

      For example a couple of years ago. We lost one of most advanced stealth drones(yes we do have them) that employed 4th generation stealth tech to the Iranians. They somehow hijacked it’s navigation system and had it land at a Iranian airbase before we noticed it gone.

      Mind you this drone also had one of our most advanced sensor and avionics packages as well. Losing it intact was a major disaster for us. The thing was a treasure trove of information worth billions and allowed Russia to save decades in understanding LO tech and how to counter it.

    • The assumption is flawed. What we civilians consider a drone are radio controlled because of the toy aspect from which they originated — operator controlled. A Tomahawk cruise missile is more a drone than a missile. From launch to target it can follow a preprogrammed flight pattern and the terrain. The only difference between it an a drone is that the Tomahawk originated from war making considerations.

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